My close personal friend, Gene Simmons

When I first opened my Facebook account, I added a bunch of celebrities. I didn’t really know how it all worked, and thought they were really online and posting pictures of their dinner parties. Anyway, one of them was Gene Simmons, which I thought was really neat because he was a bit of an idol growing up (Paul Stanley was actually my favourite Kiss guy, but never mind that ).
 
So, I scraped up this old blog entry from a year or two ago. It’s about the time I got to interview Simmons for ROB Magazine. It’s kind of cheating, but it’s the weekend and nobody visits this site on Saturday or Sunday any way.  Think of it as bonus content, not old content. Here goes:
The car, the boots, the wig, the dream.

The car, the boots, the wig, the dream. This was sometime around 1982, and I was on my way to just another day in Grade 3.

The first time I saw a photograph of Kiss, I cried. This was when records came with elaborate covers, as artful as any of the music found inside the sleeve. The back of Kiss Alive II featured a close-up of Gene Simmons, his face dripping with blood and murder in his eyes.

It was 1979, I was four years old. An older friend had shown me the record; my mother borrowed it and played it for me. She explained they were characters, that Simmons was really just another guy with a guitar. By the end of Detroit Rock City, I was hooked, even if I didn’t believe any of her reassurances.

I spent the next three years spinning albums such as Dressed to Kill and Hotter Than Hell on my Winnie The Poo record player (with plug-in microphone), oblivious to the obvious overtones of songs such as Christine Sixteen, Ladies Room and Calling Dr. Love. Every Halloween, I would sit patiently as my mother painstakingly transformed me into one of my heroes.

Then came 1983, and I was able to see Kiss in person as they travelled the world on the Creatures of The Night tour. They had lost founding members Peter Criss and Ace Frehley, but still had the makeup and a tank that fired blanks into the crowd. Like thousands of other kids, I bought my Kiss Army membership and swore I’d learn to play a guitar so I could do exactly what they were doing.

The fascination faded as I got older, as these things always do. I don’t think I’ve listened to a Kiss album cover-to-cover in a decade, I cringe when I hear lyrics about pulling the trigger on anyone’s “love gun,” let alone Paul Stanley’s.

But it’s not something you put away forever – I spent way too much time playing along on pretend guitars as a kid, dancing in front a mirror with a wig and bad makeup. There’s a tiny little part of my personality that must have been shaped by all that time in the basement.

Each of the band members are more or less preserved in my memory as they were at their peak – loud, intimidating, mysterious. The shine came off slightly when the makeup was removed, I was pleased when they reunited and slapped their faces back on in the late 1990s.

But something happened in the last five years that at first amused me and now disappoints, if only slightly – the emergence of Gene Simmons as a marketing machine. The books, the reality television shows, the barrage of newspaper articles and magazine features.

My first glimpse of Kiss. While Gene's demonic thing was clear to me at an early age, Paul Stanley's sexy sulkiness and the stoned gaze of Peter Criss eluded me.

First glimpse of Kiss. While Gene's demonic thing was clear to me at an early age, Paul Stanley's sexy sulkiness and the stoned gaze of Peter Criss eluded me. Not sure about the Ace Frehley face, still.

It was with this in mind that I sought out an interview with Simmons for Report on Business Magazine. I had my hook – he launched a Canadian record label – but it was a sense of curiosity beyond the news that compelled me to call his agent. Getting the interview was easier than you’d imagine – I placed the call, and within 15 minutes had confirmation of an impending phone interview. Within 48 my phone rang, and Simmons was asking for me by name.

Any time I’ve interviewed a celebrity, I’ve been struck by their general normalcy. Bret Michaels called me dude while driving down the Santa Monica Freeway, Alex Trebek signed my notepad in a museum lobby. But not Simmons – he was the character he plays on his reality television shows. He was charming, smart, friendly, articulate, belligerent and occasionally self-deprecating. But there was no hint of the rock god who frightened parents and church leaders – it was all marketing all the time.

I tried a few times to pull him along in different directions, but he’s an old pro – he talked about whatever came into his mind and ignored my questions. His answers were largely unoriginal (as were some of my questions, I’m afraid); I’d heard him say many of the same things in interviews that took place as long as five years ago.

Listening back to the interview, I found myself embarrassed as I heard the hint of awe in my voice as I answered the phone. I cringed a few times when he steamrolled past a question and easily charmed his way back to his preferred topic. Regardless, the interview was a professional success – interesting glimpses of his personality came through in the article.

But on a personal level, I was disappointed that I never sensed any glimpses of the rock star who dominated my early years – which is to say that it wasn’t the conversation Four-Year-Old Me would have envisioned having with the God of Thunder. But, he did tell me I was strikingly handsome (it was a phone interview) and that I was likely one of the most powerful men in Canada. Oh, and he sang Wang Chung over the line, just to me. That’s got to count for something.

The 500-word article appeared in ROB Magazine last week – here is the raw transcript at 4,700 words or so.

 

"I am the stimulus package, baby."

"I am the stimulus package, baby."

What motivated you to launch a record label in Canada?
I have strange DNA. Some people call me a mutant. I’m only child. I’ve always done things my own way. Maybe luck is on my side, maybe it’s my fate I don’t know. But almost anything I touch turns to gold. So I don’t question it when my gut says ‘this is what I have to do.’ If you take the 30,000 foot point of view, you see the big picture and here’s an idea. I mean think about it for a second – what comes out of Ireland? Not much. It’s grey, drizzly. It’s a crazy place. There doesn’t seem to be an infrastructure and yet U2 comes from there. And the local environment, the people, the vibe, the studios, all make it work for them.

And until ABBA, bands from Sweden? Are you killing me? Are you kidding me? There’s no rhyme or reason for it, for one thing. They sort of had the disadvantage that you never had. They couldn’t even speak English. So Sweden can launch ABBA and Roxette? And any number of other bands, Shocking Blue? Remember Venus? Shocking Blue is the original band, Swedish. Could barely speak English.

You have an advantage; you speak the language of the world. And before the Beatles, the Stones, and all the rest of them, England meant nothing. Nobody cared about English culture, English anything, certainly English music, and yet after these bands you had a slew not only of English bands, but English culture. All of sudden English shows came up. All of a sudden David Frost meant something. All of a sudden you had kid’s shows, Super Car, Planet Patrol and all sorts of other puppet shows.

And Japan . . . Japanese culture has very little to do with American culture and yet they were able to launch a hundred kids TV shows. Everything from Power Rangers, to anything.

My point is, how come Canadian as so suspicious of anyone who wants to come there and launch/ something. And Americans are completely welcoming. They don’t care. Just make it successful. But when you really take a look at it. There’s something Canada can learn from America. The head of the sixth largest economy on planet earth is from Austria. Arnold Schwarzenegger can’t speak English very well, to this day. Not from America, came from Austria. You should be suspicious of the guy.

But you have a chance. It’s time for Canada to lighten up! And I said this is in a editorial that I put on Simmons.com and that is ‘A Canadian might turn to another one and say we don’t need him.’ Actually, you do. You need the best of the best in order to compete on the world stage. The next band that comes out of Canada isn’t going to be competing against Barenaked Ladies, I don’t know how to tell you this. They’re competing against U2, Led Zeppelin, and Kiss and whoever else has made it on the world stage. And in order for that to happen, you need the best of the best. Americans have no problem taking your brightest stars and evolving them, and caring for them and paying them more and better than you do. So why wouldn’t you welcome anyone from the outside who wants to come to Canada and try something big?

Did you see something in particular here? Hear a certain band?
Nothing. I came in it blindfolded. And just thought that, you know the time to get involved in real estate is when nobody is there. I’m not aware of foreign ventures that come there trying to, not only Canadian content, but exclusively Canadian talent and them taking them to the world. You’ve got to remember that before the Beatles and everything, English real estate, that meant pop culture, meant nothing. And then it meant everything. And there’s nothing that London has that you don’t have.”

What’s the challenge for Canadian bands that haven’t made it in the U.S.? What do you have to offer them?
Well, I’m an asshole. In fact that’s the name of a solo record I put out. And I’m not shy. And we’re doing 360 deals. Which means we’re going to be involved in their touring, if their lead singer sucks, get rid of him. You don’t have to listen to me, but I also have the right to drop you.

 

Gene Simmons to the Tragically Hip: Change your name, nobody can spell it.

Gene Simmons to the Tragically Hip: Change your name, nobody can spell it.

Are you familiar with the Tragically Hip? They are huge in Canada, but could never really break into the United States, for whatever reason. Is that for a lack of Simmons? How would you have put them over the top?
It’s positioning before they ever get started, I would talk to them about their name. It’s too smart. Nobody can spell tragically. People watched Friends on TV and they couldn’t spell that . You’ve got to keep it simple stupid and yet not lose your vision. I’m not here to change somebody’s vision about what they do. But I am here to do exactly what the drill sergeant does with you when you enter the military. I’m going to be up your ass, my friend. I’m going to force you to drop and give me 20. Because the guy you hate the most in the military is actually your best friend. He’s the one who’s going to make you survive the war.

So you plan to be involved day-to-day? This is for real?
More than they want me to. When you really think about it. Whether you’re the world’s best drummer or boxer, there are people around you who look you in the eye and say ‘That sucks, do it again. You could be Tom Cruise, but on a movie set you’re going to do what the director tells you to do. Because he knows, and you don’t. And whether you have a coach, you know the biggest boxer in the world, the champion, whoever it may be at the time, everybody’s got a coach. So what makes band’s think they can just get up there and do it by themselves. You need to know people who’ve done it, who know the lay of the land. Part of it is trust . . . For fuck’s sake, the Beatles had Brian Epstein. The next band out of Saskatoon thinks they don’t need somebody?

There’s a perception now that bands can do it with less – they can release their own music online.
Well apparently not because they’re still living in their mother’s basement. We don’t need anybody. Oh really? How much did you make last year? ‘Well I didn’t make a lot but I have my art intact.’ Great, I’m not the guy for you. The only reason you should sign with Simmons Canada, Universal Music Canada, is if you want to be bigger. If you’re comfortable being the biggest thing in Regina, that’s great. I’m not interested. I’m interested in the world stage.

Haven’t you declared the record label dead?
They are dead . . . . Everything has to evolve.

So what about online music then, is that the answer?
That’s still a crime because the same business model that downloads and file shares has fired literally up to a million people who worked in the record industry. “And that makes it hard for the next band to become the next Nickleback, or the next whoever. Because if the fans aren’t willing to buy your music, how the fuck are you going to pay your bills? So this kind of socialistic point of view of it, c’mon man, it’s music for the people. OK then I should be able to walk into a grocery store or a supermarket and take anything I want. C’mon man. You know what I mean. You don’t want to pay for my music? I don’t want to pay for the food I’m gonna take off the supermarket.

Has the industry adapted to a file-sharing world?
Well bands are trying to figure out how to do exclusive deals with Wal-Mart’s and Best Buys and make something available only there. And maybe put something special in the packaging, but the old model – and KISS understood this 35 years ago – It’s not just about records you’ve got to have the complete package, the image, the positioning, the vibe, the media connection, who you are, where you are. It’s not just your music, it’s who’s singing it. Because you can take the same song, and have somebody else record it, not everybody’s going to have a hit with it. So, that also means TV and movies, and getting your songs out there. The Who have had the biggest success they’ve ever had by being on CSI for fuck’s sake. And Led Zeppelin got more bang for buck on one song by putting Rock n’ Roll on an Escalade commercial. Now the purist will have a problem with that. That’s OK. Remember they’re still living in mom’s basement. They’re 35 years old.

 

Gene Simmons to Men Without Hats: Bad name. You must choose either "Men" or "Hats."

Gene Simmons to Men Without Hats: You must choose either "Men" or "Hats."

So you’re still not a fan of the pay-what-you-want model?
I want to determine what to charge for what I do. I don’t want you to determine that. Because it’s my property. You know I received a well-meaning e-mail from a fan who was very upset about something I said. And I upset lots of people the same way your trainer in the gym upsets you when he says you’re a fat pig. Get down and start doing some weights, you’ve got to drop some weight. What a fucking asshole. Well actually, he’s telling you the truth. So, the same guy who tortures you in the gym is actually your best friend. So this fan wrote me an e-mail and he said something like ‘You know what, asshole? I’m going to download your music all I want and there’s nothing you can do about it.’ And I said ‘Great. I’m going to start signing every cheque I have with your name and sending all the bills to your house.’ ‘Oh, you shouldn’t be able to do that. Why not? Tell me why not? Oh your signature only belongs to you? And you’re the only one who wants to decides where and when and how it’s used. Oh? And you think I’m different than what you are?

So as a record-label owner, how do you get people to buy records again?
Well you stick bands on tour opening up for U2. You put on them on television. You put their songs on movies. You put them on electronic games, video. Licensing and merchandising deals. I can do things for bands that no one can do. Because I’m actually in all those businesses, daily.”

You partnered with Belinda Stronach?
Coincidentally Belinda, as you know, was the No. 2 of Planet Earth at Magna, then decided to run for office in Canada, and almost won. She is terrific, proactive, very pro-Canada as you can imagine. But guess what? They’re Austrian. Don’t you want the best that Austria has to offer and America has to offer and everything. I wasn’t born in America in the first place, I don’t know what everyone is complaining about.

What does she bring to the venture that you couldn’t have brought yourself?
Support and access to the corporate world. So we can call almost any corporate entity and Belinda’s voice, and the Stronach name, and the Magna name, is going to go far and wide. She doesn’t have to do very much. I’ll be the horse that carries most of the weight. And all those between Universal and Stronach and Simmons, there’s a lot of firepower. But we’re not going to be passively involved. If you don’t want anyone else to have an opinion on what you do or anything, you just want to say ‘take it or leave it’ don’t even show it us.

You’re looking for three bands?
Three Canadian bands to start off with. But there are no rules. If we sign three and the Beatles walk in through the door, what am I going to say no to the fourth one?”

Are you looking at certain genres?
You just don’t know where it’s coming from. No genres, it doesn’t matter. I’d be willing to sign a Fresh Prince, if there’s a Will Smith in it. It’s not always just about the band. It’s whether or not within the band you have a star. So, it’s worth signing Smalls Faces and any number of other to get Rod Stewart.

And you’re not just listening to the music, you want image?
You want big. Because at the end of the day when they print your picture, you can’t hear the music. You must have something called charisma. A star is bigger than what they do.”

What about the guy in the Regina basement? He’s a purest, he says he wants it to be about the music.
That’s good. I’m totally in support of that. I want to go to every Holiday Inn in the world and hear people who just want to do what they want to do. But no, not interested. I have a fiduciary duty. My duty is to make Canada bigger than what it is and to make Canada and its artists more money. Otherwise, why the fuck do you need me? You can keep playing the 10th version of the Ship of the Asparagus and try to be the next the Gordon Lightfoot. I don’t want to do that. I want the balls to step up and pee on the ground the way an animal does and claim its territory and pound on its chest and tug on the shirtsleeves of the world and say ‘Lookout. Here I am.’ Ultimately, you’re only going to get the respect you demand. And along the way you’re going to be called asshole, by the way. Who the fuck does he think he is? Well precisely that is the question – Who do you think you are? Do you belong on that stage? If you do, then you’re also a target. Not everybody is going to like you. Not everybody likes Jesus either.

 

Gene Simmons on Angus Young: A little toothless guy with a rock and roll heart.

Gene Simmons on Angus Young: A little toothless guy with a rock and roll heart.

You’ve certainly dealt with that in your career?
Oh yeah. Who cares? They pay for the privilege of not liking me that’s a fair trade.

So you’re a rich guy, with a lot at stake?
I don’t think rich is a fair word.

What word would you use?
Filthy, baby.

OK, so you’re a filthy rich guy.
And by the way that upsets a lot of people. I don’t care. I earned every penny, it’s mine and I’m allowed to position it the way I want to. It’s funny, when a guy wins the lottery and runs down the street and says ‘Oh my god. I won a $100 million’ everybody pats him on the back ‘oh yeah that’s great.’ But if I run down the street and say ‘Oh my god, I’ve worked for 35 years and I’ve got $100 million.’ What an asshole. He’s actually boasting that he’s worked for every penny of the $100 million. C’mon.”

You’re probaby in the spotlight now more than you’ve ever been. Is that a fair assessment?
Sure.

Do you worry about overexposure?
No. That’s a losers game . . . It’s like the rock star, rap star, movie star, who says ‘I don’t want to be overexposed.’ What that really means is you’re not getting job offers. You know the guy that walks into a club with 30 of his posse. He’s not there because he doesn’t want you to bother him. He’s there with 30 friends because he doesn’t want you to ignore him. Because if he walked in alone, nobody would give a shit. He’s walking with 30 people so that you know he’s somebody.

Since I’m a business reporter, I need to ask you what you make of the economy right now in the United States.
It’s in a whirl. It’s a terrific time for everyone. This is a great opportunity for you to stop spending stupid money, stop smoking, stop drinking, stop ruining your health and paying for the privilege, take all that money, all the stupid money and buy. But don’t buy stupid stuff. Buy real estate. Buy important things. It’s the best time, the price is low.

What’s the Gene Simmons stimulus package?
I am the stimulus package, baby.

So you’re spending what you’ve got?
I thought I would only hear those words in jail. You are talking potty talk.

Sorry, that was possibly the most loaded question I’ve ever asked anyone.
Most loaded question, there you go again.

Sorry, I can’t stop.
Yes you can.

So you really believe this is a good time to buy things?
If you talk to any economist, the people who made the most money is when the market place was down. 1974 it was a disaster and there was another Black Monday in ’82 and all the smart guys went out there and bought.

 

Gene Simmons on Steve Ladurantaye: "Isn't this a brilliant interview?"

Gene Simmons on Steve: "Isn't this a brilliant interview?"

How closely do you watch the markets?
Everyday. I also look both ways before I cross the street. Because once you get run over, you only have two or three possibilities: One is the truck driver gets out and says: ‘I’m sorry I ran you over.’ Two is he could come out and say: ‘I meant to do that. I meant to run you over.’ And my point is – What the fuck is the difference? You’ve been run over. It’s up to you to make sure you don’t get run over. Forget about what the intention of the truck driver is. “It reminds me of the guy who bangs his head against the wall all the time. So the newscaster comes up and says ‘I beg your pardon. I see your head is a bloody pulp. Why do you insist on banging your head against the wall over and over again.’ And the guy says: ‘Oh I’m a genius. Well the answer is: Because it feel so good when I stop. Does the word idiot come to mind?”

Rock and roll tends to flourish in recessions…
It’s amazing because rock and roll is operated by the biggest morons on Earth. If a guitar wasn’t hanging around their neck, an apron would and they’d be asking the next person in line: ‘Excuse me sir, would you like some fries with that?’”

Do you hang out with a lot of musicians?
No. Well I do what I want do, whenever I want to do it. But mostly I stay away from rock stars. They mean well but it’s a lower form of life. Because, what do rock stars do? They spend all their money; it’s very un-Jewish, it’s stupid. Two, they get high, maybe become drug addicts or drunks. So what part of that makes sense? I’m so ambitious and so hungry all the time, that every day, I want to become bigger, more powerful and do more.

Do you ever get tired of that? Do you ever think that it’s enough?
That’s why they designed death. It’s called rest in peace. When are you going to stop? Well actually you don’t have to worry about that, God is going to make you stop.

You don’t ever just want to sit on a beach and forget about it all?
Ever put a hamster in one of those little cages? You know what it’s going to do? It’s going to run around in a circle. When you’re alive, use it or lose it. Even a little hamster knows that. As a human being, some want to just lay back in the sun and do nothing. Uh Ok. Do it for a while and see what happens to your muscles. They atrophy – that’s a big word like gymnasium. Which means sooner or later they will literally cut off your arms and legs. You must move them to get circulation. And by the way, to all the other morons out there who say: ‘Nah, I have enough. I don’t need money.’ Please make out a cashier’s cheque for every dollar you don’t want and please send it to Gene Simmons. Who will be eternally grateful for every dollar you give me that you don’t want. Even God passes the hat. Don’t believe any of this shit. Everybody wants more. More is a good word, as long as you’re willing to work for it.

Do you see that work ethic in the bands you’re trying to pick up?
When I’m love. I’m in love with [Toronto prog-rock-hip-hop-band] Down With Webster. If I could blow them I would. This is potentially the next big band. And you’re talking to the guy who discovered Van Halen. I know stuff. I used to manage Liza Minelli’s music career. I don’t care what genre you’re from. I just have to be passionate about the big picture. And it’s OK to be the next Wang Chung, you know? Or Men with big hats, whatever the fuck they were.

Men Without Hats. Were they Canadian? I think they might have been.
I would force them to change their name. You can’t do that. It’s a shortcut, it’s novelty. You can call yourself Men. You call yourselves Hats. I’m not your best friend, I’m really not.

Won’t you intimidate your bands?
I don’t care. No. This is the big time. This isn’t a high school dance. It’s like all those morons who stand in front of Simon Cowell and think he’s the hard guy. He’s the softest guy you’ll ever meet. Watch what happens when a fan spits on you and throws his beer can in your face because you suck. You think Simon Cowell is hard on you? How’d you like to get onstage and really suck? Simon Cowell is the only guy on the show who tells you the truth. Everybody is trying to be nice for TV. And I’ve known Randy and Paula for decades.”

 

Gene Simmons on American Idol: "Just consider Mick Jagger, Jimi Hendrix and Gene Simmons get up there and we try to sing a song. We’d never make it... Madonna wouldn’t make it either."

Gene Simmons on American Idol: "Just consider Mick Jagger, Jimi Hendrix and Gene Simmons get up there and we try to sing a song. We’d never make it... Madonna wouldn’t make it either."

Do you watch American Idol?
Sure. But the show, by the way, is a TV show not real life. Just consider Mick Jagger, Jimi Hendrix and Gene Simmons get up there and we try to sing a song. We’d never make it. Still can’t sing for shit. But that’s not what’s about. Madonna wouldn’t make it either. She doesn’t sing classically well. What we have is something other than. It’s the ability to get up on that stage and claim it. You don’t have to sing well, you just have to be unique. You have to have a point of view. And if you take a look at the charts, fuck, the biggest bands in the world, everybody sings differently than everybody else. James Hetfield does not sound like Paul McCartney. And by the way Geddy Le sounds like nothing you and I have ever seen. And that’s what you want. Remember this is the band that took all of these bands out on their first tour. Rush and Motley Crew and Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, and Bon Jovi and every band that went out there that did well, we took them out on their first tour.”

Was that your choice?
“Sometimes. AC/DC yes. Saw them play at a little club. I was blown away by the fact that this little toothless guy – cause at this point Angus didn’t have any teeth – when the lights went out he was still going up and down, still doing that Chuck Berry thing in the dark when nobody was looking. So in those days I was saying ‘That’s a rock and roll heart.’ He’s not on stage doing a show, this stuff courses through his veins and that’s what you want. Isn’t this a brilliant interview? I’m fascinatingly interesting. Don’t wait for somebody else to compliment you. Fuck that. Just compliment yourself.”

Back to the label for a second…
By the way I kid around a lot, but nothing about what I do is kidding. I’m definitely serious about this. And most of the stuff I said, of course, is meant to rile up people, shake up ‘wow I’ve never heard anything like that.’ You know it’s like when your mom, if she’s smart, kicks you out of the house and says ‘Well junior, it’s time to get a fucking job.’ (kid’s response) ‘Wait, wait, wait, you used to wipe my ass and chew my food.’ Ya I know that, those days are gone, goodbye! “How could she do that to me? I thought she was my mother, she’s didn’t love me.’ Moron. That’s the guy that’s going to be wrapping your fish.

But the label – are you putting money on the line?
My contribution is sweat equity. I am money. I own the money bag. I own the money bag logo and have for 25 years. That’s our logo. So if you see Simmons Records and you see the money bag logo, if you don’t want any of that, go to another label.

There are fewer labels, and they don’t do as much for artists as they used to.
You know why? Because the fans who love the music, killed it. Because they downloaded and file shared because they don’t want to pay for the music. That’s why there’s less and less bands, and less and less labels.

Can smaller bands get by releasing their own stuff?

It doesn’t mean anything. When it’s time to pay the rent, the landlord doesn’t give a shit what your story is. It’s the same price.

You’re saying you can’t make up for lost record sales by making money at concerts?
Right .. I’m not making as much as I was if I was on a big label so of course life around me is going to adjust itself? Not it’s actually not. A quart of milk is still going to cost what it’s going to cost if you’re rich or poor.

So you still need to sell those records.
You need to do it all. Licensing and merchandising . . . if the only place you’re making money is from recorded music, it’s not going to work. That business model is dead.

There must be more ways than ever for a band now to make money, if they know what they are doing?
They don’t know what they’re doing. That’s why most of them are poor and playing in Regina.

But aren’t there more avenues to explore, in terms of licensing…
No. Because there are fewer and fewer bands and most bands don’t suit the vibe and the positioning and the name. Why would I want to buy a Tragically Hip comic book? With all due respect to Barenaked Ladies – it doesn’t lend itself to an action figure. Or maybe it does.

But do they need to be all those things?
Well, it depends what you want to do in life, you know. I only want the big picture. If you want to be a small band, don’t sign with us. Go some place else. We’re looking for big bands. Down With Webster, I wouldn’t change a thing with this band. It’s a bizarre name and when I saw it, I said: ‘this is complete. I have very little to add except, take this band where they can’t go by themselves.”

Have you signed them?
I’m not allowed to say yet. And I’m nuts about it. We’re taking a look at three or four other bands. There’s another band I’m interested but the name’s not right. There’s a guy with tattoos who’s kind of interesting, but he doesn’t have a good name and there’s a little too much singning/synth and not guitar, and they can’t decide if they’re a guitar band or a synth band.

 

Gene Simmons to file sharers: "Try bootlegging on me and see if I don’t wind up on your doorstep."

Gene Simmons to file sharers: "Try bootlegging on me and see if I don’t wind up on your doorstep."

Have you actually talked to them?
I torture them all the time. I want push back. I just wanted to end with a few shout outs, as our black brothers would use it. Randy Lennox and the Universal Music Canada team – remember I make a living so I don’t have to kiss anybody’s ass – they’re great. This is as a professional bunch of people, caring, who are listening, who are looking . . You know what they’re doing, they’re trying to take exactly the same thing I am, trying to take the next Canadian band and make them a world sensation. Make them the next U2 or the next whoever. This is admirable and this is the kind of vision I have: big. I don’t want to be ‘We’re just as big as Chilliwack was.’? Fuck that. I want to be big. I want everybody to not even worry about where you came from, you’re just big. When I think of U2, I don’t think of Ireland first, I just think – World Band.”

There’s only a handful of those sort of bands.
And why can’t the next one come out of Canada? If you have a good answer, I’d love to hear it. And for all those people out there who have bands and don’t think the next big band can’t come out of Canada, stay away from us. I’m only looking for that. I want to get up and play baseball and I want that home run. That means a lot more hard work, a lot more everything. And never to take a backseat. If you go to Simmons Records.com, it tells you exactly how to do it. It shows you some of the people who are caring and loving, putting in their own personal time to try and help the process.

Any tips for bands looking to get signed?
Part of that is also ‘don’t waste my fucking time.’ I’ll get e-mails that go: ‘Hey man. I’m the tambourine player from the wombats and if you’re interested in our band, just call me on the telephone.’ This is a sign of being a loser. Why wouldn’t you just put your electronic demo right there in the e-mail. Instead of expecting somebody to call you back. It doesn’t show vision, it doesn’t show proactive, it doesn’t show this kind of …. Usually you get one chance, if you’re lucky, for anybody to give you the time of day. Much less listen to your stuff. Why would you assume we have time to figure out when you’re home, leave a message, call me back. Kill me now.

You lashed out a Canadian blogger who said your label was a bad idea.
Oh sure. Here’s a moron that has never achieved anything and believes his opinion is important. So give me your resume. What have you done? Why is your opinion valid? And why do you think I’m not going to respond to that? Like I’m going to stand there and take criticism from somebody who’s not qualified to wrap my fish.

Most people would probaby assume you’re not involved in the day-to-day operations of the label?
I am. Try bootlegging on me and see if I don’t wind up on your doorstep.

That would freak them out pretty good.
I’d take your house and your first born. Are you kidding? But the only reason, remember, we wound up in this problem in the first place is the record companies didn’t have the balls to track down every single freckled-faced kid who decided to take the law into his own hands and started file sharing and downloading. That’s why the record industry’s dead. I would have raped and pillaged right on the spot. Because if you dare draw first blood, it’s war.

Is the file sharing fight over, or is it ongoing?
No. No. If you try to do that to our stuff, we’ll sue you. We have full time legal.

Have you gone after fans like that before?
Oh sure. We went all the time. Sure. It’s no different than your house, when spring and summer come and the pests come, you gotta call the exterminator. And you don’t ever kill all the roaches and the pests and the mosquitoes, but what choice have you got?

And now you have to deal with Internet leaks when you are working on a record. It’s a whole other game.
The fight is worth it because the alternative is not. The alternative is, it just gets bigger and bigger. The first time the farmer lets the flocks into the hen house, you can’t be shocked when there’s no more eggs, there’s no more chickens, he’s out of business, the store that sells his chicken and eggs is out of business. The trucking company that trucked the stuff back and forth is out of business. And the rest of the people are going ‘I can’t buy any eggs or chicken.’ It’s farmer Al’s fault.

Why haven’t the labels come down harder on downloading?
There’s a huge ship. And there’s one little finger-worth of a hole in the ship. You know that one little finger hole can sink the entire ship, did you know that?

But why did they let it get so far ahead of them?
Because just because you work for a record company doesn’t mean you understand the business. People work at large entities and have job security issues. They’re not rich so they don’t make decisions based on what’s good for the industry. They make decisions based on what’s good for their job. Remember, whistleblowers get fired. Remember, I don’t care. Transgress and I will find out where you live. I can be your best friend or your worst enemy. You give as good as you get. I don’t want to be.. I’m not here to do a public relations. I think stars that get out there, they’re always smiling and stuff. Fuck that. I’m a serious guy who likes to have a good time and joke around. And I’ll go out of my way to help you in doing something, I’ll go to the end of the earth. But if you fuck with me, you must, you must then incur my wrath. That’s fair. Be nice to a dog and it will love you. Start hitting it and see if it doesn’t rip your balls off.

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3 responses to “My close personal friend, Gene Simmons

  1. terrific article. i loved it. and gene simmons is freaking brilliant. I so look forward to every one of your entries!!

  2. t o gene simmions a very dear friend:i watched your program on t v and you did a very good job on expressing your feelings as a man…keep up the good work as i am trying to understand why men do dont express there feelings toward woman as you did toward your wife…..it takes a man to admit his wrong doings and you did a real good job…..i am a female 45 and my other half is 56….i am trying to understand but with no help and i have no medical insureance…..i have no help….can you help me…..here is my e mail address……josiewell451@hotmail.com…i am very serious about this………thanks for everything and i think alot more men need to do what you did………….thanks…………..josie

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